30 December 2007

Music: Pet Shop Boys

During my extensive iTunes importing (my vinyl's are now in iTunes) over the last few days, I found my Pet Shop Boys 12" singles which led me to listen to PopArt and other stuff.
I've always felt that PSB are a hugely underrated pop outfit, their music seems on first listen to be very disposable and very 'samey', but the more you listen the more it becomes obvious they are a cut above generic pop. The sheer perfection of 'It's a sin' doesn't sound dated these days, kinda like Talk Talk - they've aged very well.
One aspect is the lyrics, sure the music is poppy, cheerful etc, but listening to the lyrics they tend to be quite melancholic. Quite wistful, quite quirky. There's an element of sadness in most of their lyrics, summed up perfectly in the wonderful 'You only tell me you love me when you're drunk'. A reflection of Neil Tennant's relationships? Don't really know, seeing as I can't tell who wrote the lyrics, and wikipedia appears to have failed me.
So yes, I've been enjoying my redipping into PSB. Theres stuff there that has far more emotional investment than you'd expect in 'pop' music, thematically homosexuality, AIDS, relationships - and done with a tongue in check humour. Worth watching their movie too, it's refreshingly different.

Best albums? Nightlife and Actually. For my money anyway.

B x

28 December 2007


I need to rant about the stupidity of todays rock stars, inspired by the insipidness of various Rolling Stone interviews. Don't get me started. I'm going to swear a lot.
but not yet.
I've had a couple of GnTs, and then had a 'nip' of each of my scotches. Finished with the Edradour. It's like sex in a glass.


And strangely, Knocked up, is a reasonably movie. And the music was organised by Loudon Wainwright III and Joe Henry. Cool.

Me xxxx

World's Best: Beer, Radio and Enz

Oude Geuze Boon: Is this my favourite beer in the world? I had one the other night and held off reviewing it to think a bit more about it. I'm prepared to go out and say it may be the best beer I have ever had. There is a lot going in this beer, nice head, citrus hints, slightly fruity (apples?), fizzy (unsurprising), wonderful aroma - again citrus, but also overtones of a white wine (NZ chardonnay). This was the 2003-2004 vintage btw. Obviously lambic with the distinctive bitterness but beautifully balanced against the rest of the flavours.
Go try it.

I just had the last of my Belgian beers, another Timmermans but one I hadn't tried before. Timmermans Lambicus Blanche. A nice light beer, it's very tasty with huge overtones of apricots. Or something sweetish like that anyway. Seems like a wonderful breakfast beer.

And my favourite radio show is back on, Matinee Idol with Phil O'Brian. Woohoo. I would suggest for those of you overseas to check this out, you'll hear pretty much anything. Phil and Simon are great - it's available online here.

Also noted on the RadioNZ site, the brilliant series by Jeremy Ansell on Split Enz, Enzology is available online here. If you haven't already heard it, it's definitely worth checking out.

With hugs and beery thoughts, me

25 December 2007

Cartoon Madness!

My mind has regressed far enough that the following two cartoons have been keeping me amused !!!

The Tick, wonderful series from the comics, co-written by Ben Edlund - it was series 2 that I've been watching. Including the Christmas classic 'The Tick v. Santa'.

and now, Count Duckula, again a classic - voiced by David Jason (well Duckula is). I recently got Series 1 on DVD (thanks HMV) and am beginning to work my way through it. Wonderful subversive stuff.
Not the best quality video, but here' the opening credits.

I suspect Series1 of QI maybe up next.

me xx

Blue Demon!

Following some Wooing Tree Otago Pinot Noir, and another viewing of Death at a Funeral (great fun movie), I've moved onto a Blue Demon flick, The Champions of Justice, and hey guess wot - it's started with a long wrestling sequence. Crickey. How surprising for a Blue Demon movie.
I'll revise that, I'm now 10 mins in and all there's been is wrestling, and some bike riding, oh hang on someone with a machine gun popped up and is shooting people. Seems a reasonable thing to do with a machine gun. Go him. He has a cape. It's red. WTF? "It is the Black hand"."although we killed him and his gang","it's obvious he has returned". Wooohoooo Ms Mexico competition is involved.
For the love of god, now there's frickin dwarves. WHY OH GOD WHY. And yes there is one in Death AAF too.
Why do the dwarves look full sized in the car? Odd. Great soundtrack, wonderful mid-late 60s jazz. Choice. Now a wrestler dressed as a tiger is being done to by 3 dwarves. Oh dear who will save him from the darstadly dwarves.
OK what passed as plot has gone. I wasn't trying to follow it, cos I knew I'd lose, but really all it's been is a series of fights between superhuman strength midgits, and normal sized wrestlers. Fantastic. The 80minutes has just flown by.

damm this cold, and my moderate sobriety. Grr.

me x

24 December 2007

Xmas Midday report

Right, so I have a stinkin head cold. I'm trying to deal with it by ignoring and booze. so after croissants we're watching top gear.
intact thus far: two liquor coffees, glass of trinity hill arneis and now one of my Belgian beers.

The wine: a refreshing wee morning drop. Quite tasty and fruity, moderately sweet. Would go well with spicy stuff methinks, and did work well with croissants and lemon/mustard potatoes. Interesting wee drop and not one we get in NZ a lot, so yay Trinity Hill. I'll be drinking more of that thank you very much.

It's beer o'clock now (while watching Marcus Lush's "Ice") and I'm sipping a Belgian Poperings Hommel Bier. Similar to the wine, it's fruity very zesty, I'd disagree with MJs review I thnk the bitterness is quite high, and I don't sense the honey in there. I like it, and it's a good example of the IPA form. I do get string citrus from it tho', but I'm thinking it's not a morning bier, I should have gone with my first thought and ahd another kriek. Oh well, there's always soon...

Now I just need some Bgrade movies, and things will be bloody marvellous. Ohhh and there's trifle soon. If either of us can be arsed moving.

me xx

Beer 101

Needless to say far more beer will be consumed tomorrow, along with viewing a number of B grade movies. So expect drunken reviews. Actually that's a point, I should organise the movies before I hit the booze tomorrow. Like tonight OMG I'm so excited.
Oops, sorry the thought of making Rudolph's nose red just got to me.

Belgium Beer:

Scotch Silly - a Scotch style ale, and yes I bought it on name. Nothing to write home about, not very hoppy and not a good example of an ale. It is 8% which in kiwi beer drinking style means it's a "good beer" but sadly my requirements for beer have changed. For that reason, find a decent Scottish ale if you want an ale in the style of a Scottish ale. The green on the cover was pretty though.

Next up was from one of my favourite breweries, Timmermans. More precisely, their lambic Kriek. It is frickin stunning. I love a good kriek, and you'd be hard pressed to get better than this one. A slightly bitter lambic taste, the sweetness of the berry - if you want a good example of the type, you could do a lot lot worse than this one. Drink it.

Slainte, B

iPod randomness and Radiohead

So I'm wandering around listening to the new(ish) Radiohead 'In Rainbows' which, btw, is brilliant and will definitely be making my top10 this year. Briefly, it's more tune orientated than the last few albums, so is a more natural successor to Ok Computer. Having said that I love the dissonant stuff they've been doing recently (KidA is one of my fav albums)...basically if you like radiohead, you'll be buying it anyway, the rest of you - if you liked OkComputer or Hail to the Thief, it's worth picking up this one.

But onto the beauty of my ipod randomness, having finished InRainbows, I switched on random. First up was the classic Rare Bird track 'Sympathy', which my favourite band covered. A video of which is included for your viewing pleasure.

And then the ipod switched to the Deep Purple track 'Child in Time'. DP have always struck me as one of the great 'lost' rock bands, everyone seems to know their music (aside from Smoke...) but they never got the recognition of say LedZep, Sabbath etc - and I don't know why. Their music is interesting, rocks, has complexity and the musicianship is stunning. Child in Time is one of my favourite DP tracks, who'da thought a long complex track with a keyboard solo would appeal eh?!
I have fond memories of watching the classic Top of the Pops (repeats obviously!) when CiT was played, and the looks on the audiences faces were priceless. Not so much wot the fuck, as for the love of god, what do we do?! Smile? Clap? Look serious? jiggle?
This isn't that version, but it's still great:

me x

22 December 2007

Xmas Carols!!!

in an attempt to get into the Xmas spirit, here's some vids for the kids:

And for Mr Salmond, where-ever he may be:

Yuletide love, B.

19 December 2007

Food Mojo

Is my mojo back? Admittedly this post comes from a slightly inebriated B, due to a champagne, strawberries and cake for Adelie Penguin's birthday. There's something very right about drinking two bottles of booze before 9am, and then bowling along to a meeting at 9am.

But in the last few days I've actually done some cooking. This is surprising as I've been very much out of sorts with cooking and have had no interest in it wotsoever.

So after Jos invited me over for tea, and said I could do the main and it would involve 'mushrooms' I came up with the following:
* brown rice and a thai (ish) sauce flicked through it
* mushroom, red wine, ricotta and spinach pies
* shiitake mushroom polenta fritters with feta and salad drapped over them

Last night I made a cake for the birthday booze-up this morning, a roast strawberry cake where the strawberries and roasted for about 25mins with balsamic vinegar and icing sugar and dumped in and over a lemon-ish cake.

I also made a nice and hot fish tortilla (also from the current Cuisine). Could have done with being a bit hotter as I pulled back on the chilly a little, but the salsa was pretty much perfect! Made me reach for a lager. And that's never a bad thing.

I wonder if I'll get a small hangover around lunchtime? Might drive back to a pub. Mmmm pub.

B xx

15 December 2007

Some Movies monsieur?

In no particular order here's some movie reviews, admittedly I'm half asleep and have *some* alcohol down me, but let's see wot happens eh? Whose with me? Team...

Hitman - based on the computer game. Yes I know that's generally a reason to avoid it. But what the hey, I like crap movies. Well it's got action, it has Timothy Olyphant (from Deadwood - he's the sheriff in DW), Dougray Scott etc, but scriptwriting was a bit lean and the story does require massive suspension from belief. Tim's character (Agent47) from a shadowy group of assassins (And what do you call assassins who accuse assassins, anyway My friend?) gets backstabbed by his mates. Agent47 gets mildly grumpy and goes about trying to find out whats the haps That's largely the story. There's cops, assassins, russians (the main guy is played by the pedophile in prison break) and lots of dodgy accents that fade in and out. Wonderful. The biggest plus is that its only 90mins long and that there is a fair amount of action.
It's hard to review, given it's crap and knows it, but it is fun. I'd recommend it with the warning that it is *shockingly badly written*, acting is hamstrung by poor directing (Tim O is kinda wasted here).

The snappily titled The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford. Now I'm in the camp of Brad Pitt is quite a good actor but tends to be overlooked as he's easy on the eye. For that reason a meandering western with Pitt as Jesse James seemed a good test of how good he is. Some critics had been bitching about the length of the movie (160min) but given I like meandering movies that didn't seem a reason to not see it. The story looks at the last couple of heists of the James' gang (at this point consisting of his brother and Jesse), and the manlove of a new recruit. So essentially the whole movie revolves around Pitt (Jesse James) and Casey Affleck (the newbie). Pitt more than adequately holds this movie together. He's brillant, moody, funny and convincing. I'm sold. What I really liked about this movie, and there is a lot to like, is that there is little to distract from the story. The scenery is minimalist and there are not too many extraneous characters. Most scenes revolve around the two leads.
There's also a level of humour in here I wasn't expecting. The movie has some very funny (admittedly black humour) scenes, which certainly helps the pace.
Casey's character develops, initially as a simpleton and then becoming more complex as the movie and his relationship with James' develops. Well written and well acted.
Nice cameo by Nick Cave too :)
The killer of Ford is a nice exploration of the reasons for fame and although it could have been superfluous to the movie, it works well.
I'm quite prepared to say its one of the movies of the year. Go see it.

And finally Eastern Promises, the new Cronenberg exploring the Russian mafia in the UK. Cronenberg seems to have found a muse in Viggo Mortenson and given how good History of Violence and Eastern Promises are, that's fine by me. These two movies have more character and emotional development in them. EP focusses on a baby born to an unknown mother and the nurse who tried to find out who she is and where her relatives are. Viggo plays a prospect in the Russian mafia with style, dealing with the boss' drunk useless son (the boss is a restaurant owner explaining the setting for most of the movie). the twists are excellent, the scriptwriting perfect, the acting stunning. And the directing as exemplary as per norm for Cronenberg.
I loved this movie. Sure there's elements of violence, but it's not over the top and it is tastefully and realistically done.
I'll admit I think Cronenberg is truely the bomb, but this movie should appeal to a wider number of people than his earlier work.
Again one of my favourites of the year. Viggo really turns into a mafia hitman thing, and is absolutely convincing.

B (now even more asleep) xx

11 December 2007

Jean Assam

The chick who shot and killed the gunman in the US who had an issue with evangelical christians.

Apparently god was helping her.

Gotta love the ol' teste god.

Rock on in a hail of godly bullets beeaattchhh.

I wonder since she killed him, and he killed 4 people, if she can get 0.25 of a murder one charge?


Unsurprisingly I'm against the Japanese scientific whaling. Mainly as after the labwork (?!) it ends up on dinner plates. Riiighhhttt...
While reading the DomPost this morning the following solution occurred to me.
So the Japanese believe they can kill 50 whales a year for research, which in no way can be justified from a scientific viewpoint. Why not allow scientific hunting of Japanese to an equal weight each year for 'research purposes'. Even I'd be keen for a bit of human flesh for research.

Gentlemen, get your guns, harpoons, and slicing n dicing implements.
b x

Proggy Goodness

I am currently running phylogenetic analysis to the very loud sounds of an album I haven't listened to for sometime.

And bugger me sideways I'd forgotten how damm good it is.

IQ - Subterranea. It's bloody marvellous. Loud, proggy, rockey, interesting and flows beautifully.

I would put their next studio album, The Seventh House, in my top albums list, and the most recent Dark Matter is meandering it's way up there.

Cool! I do so love it when this happens.

10 December 2007

VCDs, AVIs and nifty apps

Anyone remember VCDs? Those CD sized video's, hugely popular in Asia and never really taking off anywhere else. Except for the TV series episodes - ahhh fond memories of Angel and Buffy on VCDs. Marathon sessions with alcohol, coffee, food and great company. Aaahhhh. Nice.
Anyway, I had the reasonably rare Queen GH III VCD which I recently flicked off on Ebay, having kept a copy of the files on my harddrive. The video files were 'DAT' files, which my AppleTV couldn't play and none of the video things I had sitting around on my machine could convert them to AVI (Handbrake, iDVD, iMovie etc). All abit annoying.

Enter, ffmpegX. What a great wee application. It seems to be able to convert anything to anything else. I seem to remember something very similar on a PC a few years ago, but this one is delightfully easy to use. Didn't seem to have any Queuing function available, but I didn't do much hunting either.

Next up converting some Greg the Bunny 2005 special to something my AppleTV is happier with.

So yeah, big thumbs up for uber powerful and uber easy software for your converting needs.

Me xxx

9 December 2007

Xmas pressies for the special person in your life....

A picture, and a video, wot more could you want! Website here.

7 December 2007


I bought my third ever OS yesterday. First was Win95 upgrade, second was Mandrake 10.1 and the most recent was MacOS 10.5 (Leopard).
Didn't bother about a backup as I figured a) it wouldn't be too likely to kill anything, b) I didn't have much on my laptop I cared about too much and c) I'd back myself to be able to recover anything I did need.
So I checked a few apps homepages to see if I needed to know anything. Adobe CS3 apps are largely supported, NetNewsWire should be fine, and Shapeshifter isn't supported. Those are my three big ones that I checked as I forgot about CLC FreeBench. Oh well, fingers crossed.
Obviously I chose the Upgrade option, the reformat option didn't seem a good plan given my lack of backups! And roughly 45-60mins later I had an upgraded OS. Yup it was that easy. I'd grabbed the 10.5.1 patch off the server at work before I left so ran that and installed the other two patches. Simplicity itself. And all done while watching TopGear and QI. Whoot!

Impressions? It's slightly prettier than 10.4 and I do like the nifty pseudo 3D effect on the Dock. Everything seems to be working properly (aMSN, Adium, Azureus, NetNewsWire, Handbrake of the non-Apple apps) and seeing as my laptop was designed for 10.5 (apparently) it does seem to be running better. But that's probably just imagination.

Initial conclusion: it's not that expensive as an upgrade, but there's not a whole lot of reasons to be upgrading if you are happy with 10.4. Having said that Bootcamp is on this release, and the Mail and Calendar apps are improved. Mail handles RSS now so I'm trying to work out if I transfer my NNW feeds to Mail. The one catch I've found is that Mail doesn't seem to allow folders within the RSS section. And I like my many RSS feed divided up into folders.

Love, B

Dance recitals and Beer

In the continuing vein of trying to screw with peoples heads, the JT concert seemed to work well, I wandered along to a pole dancing review.
The blonde has been pole dancing for fitness for sometime and her group (troupe?) decided to put on a show. As a red-blooded male it would have been churlish to turn down that invite, and it was at Bodega so I could have good beer at the same time. I really enjoyed it, great atmosphere, hot babes in skimpy outfits (the blonde looked particularly fine), and cool choices in music. So how did this differ from strip clubs? For a start clothes stayed on (sadly), and this lot were far far better than anything I've seen at various stag nights. The choreography was tied to the music and worked well - nice and saucy in places too. But the big difference was the atmosphere, supportive, fun, relaxed and not at all lewd (even from me). BHR was also there, not that he'll be reading this blog (you hear that MrMorgue!), and some beer was consumed. I came away thinking the Feelin' Good (either Muse or Nina Simones version) would work *really* well for pole dancing...maybe I could become an impresario? How cool would that be?

Currently watching Steel Mill, ahhh I've missed my metal show. Cult of Luna has just soothed my jangled nerves !

Love, B

5 December 2007

Record holders

Given the readership of the this blog it seems a sensible place to ask:

Anyone have any recommendations for containers to hold LPs?

Me x

29 November 2007

Where oh where have the little sheep been?

Three posts in one day, I blame S for saying I hadn't blogged for awhile...

I had a look on Google Analytics and here's some interesting facts about my readers:
Ecuador (Quito): hello!!! Quito is the capital of Ecuador, I can see that being useful in quizzes. It's about 3000m above sea level, and is near as dammit is to swearing on the equator meaning bugger all variation in day/night. All that from wikipedia here.
I have a reader in Iran and one in Qatar. How cool is that! hello dear foreign sun baked readers!!!

Browser usage is interesting too; Firefox (38.11%), IE (36.95%), Safari (21.25%) so looks like a large number of Mac users out there! hello Mac users!!!

Peak viewing over the last coouple of months was the 16 Nov, and of my individual pages the AppleTV hack page is the most popular.

Love and international reading, B.

28 November 2007

Useful travel tips

It's a quiet day at work here, so while nibbling strawberries I thought I'd put up all those links I meant to while away...

Train travel is so much more convenient than plane. turning up with 5 minutes to go is fine, there's no baggage checking in. It's quiet, fast and you can see bits of the scenery. Tip for young players, buy a rail pass before you leave NZ. It's cheap and the great thing is they never bother marking things off. For example the one I bought was for 8 days, and the nice BritRail people only marked off 3 days - so Mr (and future Mrs) S have a travel pass. Go here.
UK travel planning here. which has nice things like being able to select if you want to walk, bus, train etc.


Nice thing about the UK is that they are all free (excepting various special exhibits).
Brit Museum (drop into Gosh comics across the road, buy stuff)
Tate Modern
Science Museum Check out their shop too, and its very close to the V and A
Transport Museum
Cardiff Museum


Obviously it's going to be hard to find good food, but I'll try to help.
Monmouth Coffee Company, by far the best source of beans and coffee I've found in London and the UK. Next door to Neal's Dairy too and the Borough Market. Woot!!
Neals Yard Dairy
a wet dream for cheese/dairy lovers. Oh God Yes.
London Borough Market Want real food? Like veges with dirt on them? decent ale? Go here. And get your cheese/coffee sorted as well.
Moulin Ales and Food not that Neil and I went there for food and beer. No of course not. But if we had, great food and even better beer. Just down the road from Edradour. Apparently you can hire a cottage thingy there. Lovely. And by god was that beer good. I want more.
Campaign for Real Ale they suffer a bit from an image problem - think Social Creditors in NZ - but worth a visit to find good beer. Mmm beer.
Wychwood brewery you can find some/most of these in NZ and I like them. MrS and I may have imbibed some while in Oxford. Worth checking out their posters with classics like "Whats the matter Lagerboy, afraid you might taste something"
Edradour yeah I know I've already linked to them, but it's my blog and they are that good

Anathema and yeah apologies for it being a myspace
Dream Theater
SymphonyX Like DT? You'll probably like SymphonyX too, great prog-metal
Christopher Rees Welsh singer-songwriter who deserves far more exposure than he currently has
Justin Timberlake

I think that largely covers the things I visited, drank and ate which were good while away. There are, obviously, others I could put up, but decided to stick to places/things I actually used.

Love, B (I now have no strawberries but have filled in some time)

Musing on Justin

At some point a brief summary of Sydney may pop up, but until then:
Muse : believe the hype. NME and various other stupid music magazines have dubbed Muse 'best live band in the world'. On the strength of the gig I saw on Friday, it's probably true. Matt's voice is incredible, his range, power, projection - great stuff. The light show was damm good, my one complaint was that the bass and drums could have been a bit higher in the mix. But I'm really pleased I popped along, the selection was mostly from the last two albums (Black Holes and Revelations and Absolution), but they did an absolutely storming version of Feelin' Good.
Venue was the Henderson arena thing, which didn't have the best acoustics, but the sound guys seemed to have it pretty sorted. Would be close to my top gig of the year.

Since I was in Auckland the blonde (who was arriving back in NZ on the Sat) and I decided to stay there a couple of days and see Justin Timberlake. If nothing else the looks on peoples faces when I said I was going was worth the ticket price. Now, contrary to popular belief, I don't know that many Justin songs (we established later it was 3 or 4), but I had a great time. Stunning lightshow, great performance/dancing, cool vibe. Loved it. And I came away with more respect for JT than when I went in, he was plonking away on the keyboards and a guitar quite frequently. At times his voice was a bit whiney, but that might have been an affectation. Anyway, great concert - and I realised later, possibly the first pure 'pop' gig I've ever been to. The audience hysteria was also funny, at times they were louder than extreme metal gigs I've been to. Freaky!

Love, B xxx

16 November 2007

From Heathrow and a reference to Conchord(s)

This comes to you from the terminally boring Terminal4. Decided to leave quite early in the morning to avoid traffic in London. T4 however lacks any charm, style and I remember T1-2-3 having more places to spend money. Oh well. I guess my VISA bill will like me for it.
The Scotch shop owner was impressed with what I was looking for (Brora), sadly he didn't have any.

But for those of you outside NZ, Brett and Jermaine (Flight of the Conchords) have won Wellingtonian of the Year.

That seems fair.

Love, terminal B.

15 November 2007

TT 14-15

Weds: most of the day on the train, Glasgow to London. Caught up with Craig for a couple, then Andrew and I had a quiet couple. Not the most exciting :)

Thurs: Quiet day, washed some clothes as the jeans were getting aromatic. Went to Windsor to lunch with Patrick, heading out to dinner tonight. All of which has given me time to think which, I think, has produced the first kinda thoughtful TT.

One thing I have noticed this time is a greater emphasis on security. CCTVs are everywhere, I think I read there are 4 million of them scattered throughout the british isles. That's a helluva lot. And it doesn't stop there. There are constant reminders on public transport, stations, posters - everywhere really - to be vigilant. To report left luggage, anything suspicious, odd behaviour, indeed people are told 'if in doubt, report it'.
There has also been a big furore, with just cause, concerning the length of time a terrorist suspect can be held. Apparently the UK has the longest period (24 days - sorry this is all from memory and I don't have web access at the moment) that police can hold a suspect without charging them. To put that in comparison, NZ is 2 days (but generally 1), the US is 1 day, Germany is 1-2. Some small tinpot country not known for it's human welfare record was 7 days. The leftie complaint is that Tony B wanted to increase this to 40ish days before charging. Gordon B has said that he's keeping a genuinely open mind.

So why am I blogging about this? Well in all honesty it feels like a police state here. And with recent statements about increasing anti-terrorism laws there are about to be a massive increase in police and other forms of watching. Apparently a training branch for anti-terrorism is going to be established whereby everyone in a position of interacting with the public will get training, examples of these include cinemas, theatres, museums etc etc.
In addition to the ad nauseum 'be vigiliant' comments, it also transpires that the British people, already some of the most watched people in the world on CCTV, are also frequently wiretapped or subject to surveillance.

One of the central tenets of the British legal system is habeas corpus which translates, in essence, as a safeguard to individual freedom against state intervention. This basic right of the individual appears to have been gradually eroded by a succession of anti-terrorism laws. The British implementation of these appears to have been more insidious than the US, where Patriot I and II swept away rights in the aftermath of 9/11. It is for that reason that conspiracy theorists have suggested 9/11 was a means to an end for the US government. Given Rudi G's presidential campaign has more use of "9/11" than I do of a certain four letter word starting with F and ending with K, one might be forgiven for reaching a conclusion ...

It is also much easier to spy on people with recent advances in technology. Your cellphone can be tracked to within a small region, internet access is monitored, wifi links, your bank withdrawls and eftpos/visa purchases can be used to track you, CCTV can identify you. It's not hard for a someone to know everything about you. In addition the British have the worlds largest DNA bank, with approximately 1 in 14 people represented. Scared yet?

So why do the British people put up with this? Firstly I think because they have freedom so deeply ingrained in their psyche (to reach into pop psychology for a minute) that they are genuinely not bothered by the changes. The slow implementation of the changes also means the public appears to have accepted them not realising how deep the changes have become. Secondly the surveillance is not obvious. Sure some of the cameras are quite visible, but they've been there for years. Surveillance of phones and people is again subtle, and internet tracking is invisible, meaning even if you were being 'spied' on the chances of realising it are slim.

What has really gotten to me is the constant be vigilant calls. These amount to a request to spy on everyone else and, I suspect, add dramatically to a populations racial stereotypes/profiling, 'he looks muslim, gotta be a terrorist'. I don't see that as helping to develop tolerance. The calls are also portrayed as a good thing, essentially if we don't spy on everyone the terrorists win (to paraphrase GWBush). So whats the patriotic Britain to do?

All of this reminds me of two movies (books too, but let's stick to pop culture), Children of Men and Brazil, and a police state (WWII Germany). Sure the German reference is a bit extreme and I'm certainly not suggesting the British police force is arresting people and hiding them for 24 days. But the similarities are there. Interestingly the German people have some of the lowest surveillance in the world. Given the lessons they've learnt, I can understand why.

Now I'm not saying there aren't terrorists out there. I'm sure there are. But surely giving up individual freedoms on the possibility they might strike isn't the way to deal with it - or at least it doesn't seem to be to me. Surely if any of the surveillance was more obvious, or if people knew about it, there would be more of an outcry. So in that respect have the terrorists gained a victory? Paranoia roams where the shadows play, to quote a favourite lyricist.

At the moment I can't come up with a solution to this, but I am thinking about it.

B (a bit disturbed by the sudden change in blog style)

14 November 2007

Nov 12-13 Och aye laddie

Escaping Blackburn proved trickier than expected as the Railway station had rudely moved itself during the night. The signs pointing to where it used to be now directed one to a Mall. Complete with all the bad-mallness you'd expect. In the spirit of Fiennes I soldiered on, finding both the station and the train I required to deposit me in Preston. From Preston I headed up to Glasgow to be met by Neil. Those of you who have met Neil will understand my livers trepidation in reacquainting myself with him. But 'twas good to see him again and talk a load of bollox about music, over a couple of quite excellent beers. Spending time with Neil worries me, I find it difficult to argue music with him (we coincide too much), and our love of dark ales and whisky is worryingly close. It's not just me, Frances said the same thing. Worse was to come after we'd adjourned to the pub (a favourite of Neil's with lots of excellent ale on tap) and discovered our favourite distillery was "Edradour" (see last major scotch post). After meeting Neil's other half (apparently easy to guess who I was since I had a Marillo t-shirt on) we decided to head to the distillery the next day since it was only a 2 hour drive from Glasgow.

Having sorted out the business of the next day we settled in for a pint, or six. Ended up eating at the pub, which offered vegetarian options! Wow! The other two seemed amused by my 'wow, it's lettuce! and it's crunchy', I guess spending time in London does open your tastebuds after all ! Post beer we returned to Neil's place to sample some whisky and listen to music. Mmmm tasty. There's a picture floating around of what we sampled which I'll upload at some point. Most interesting would have been the bottle from the whisky club/society thingy that Neil belongs to.

Tuesday rolled around and we gently approached the day. Juice, water, coffee and some food took up the first hour or two of movement, and then we hit the road. The Perthshire (?) tourist road was lovely - here they value their bonnie heather, we want it destroyed. There were aspects of sadness on the trip. We were to pass Dewer's world of whisky (stop giggling Blair), which I was assured had a huge globe with 'World of Whisky' encircling it. No such luck. We also had to drive past The Famous Grouse (again, quiet Blair) and the large metal grouse outside that place. I'll be back...
Arriving at Edradour just outside of Pitlochy: it's the smallest distillery in Scotland (400L for the smaller of the two stills), is quite breathtaking. There's a small stream running through the place, and all of the buildings are lovely. I have some photo's, which again will make it up at some point. We went on the tour, which given the size of the place was predictably brief. They played a video about how they made stuff, which was soooo twee we were laughing (quietly) - even had a flute - just like the Scottish hotel owner in Little Britain. A dram of their cheap whisky was provided while we watched. Even their cheap stuff is good.

A brief chat about all the different types they make followed. They had the stuff I liked at our tasting - roughly the same price as in NZ interestingly. Except WhiskyGalore had none left. Also a large range of cask strength's finished in a range of barrels. A group of four were described as their top range.

The tour went through the distillery and ended up in the tasting room. Seeing as I was always going to buy the 13yo I decided to try three of the four of their top range stuff. First up was a Tokaji finish. Really intriguing taste to this one, very very sweet (from the wine barrel) and very young at 4yo. The complexity of the taste would have suggested a 12-18yo. Both nose and finish were also sweet with very strong overtones of honey. I'd have given it an 8.5-9.

Next up was the 24 yo port finish. In the parlance of youth, OMG. There are times you taste something and just know you have to buy it. this was one of them. It's no exaggeration to say one taste sent shivers through me. Neil was laughing until I got him to taste it. That shut him up. Quickly. It's got a lovely nose, a very very complex woody caramel taste and a finish that just wouldn't end. Had this been at the tastings we've had in Wellington it would have been a 10 (by way of comparison, the Brora's I so loved were in at 9.5). I would be buying this one.
Last up was their 22yo finished in Chateau de'Quem (sp) barrels. Massive citrus nose and taste to this (lemon in particular), a much lighter whiskey than the port (well duh!), again wonderful complexity and a long finish. Apparently that one was the hit at the Xmas party for the staff. Sadly only a 9 for that one as it had been totally overshadowed by the port finish.

As I'm sure most of you guessed, I bought the port finish. And no, you don't want to know how much and no, unless I know you know whisky, you won't be tasting it.

We got back about 6ish (bloody traffic) and had a quiet nite drinking tea (no honest, we did!) and listening to music and talking more bollox. We did finally find someone to disagree on, Leonard Cohen. I think he's great.

B xxx

13 November 2007

TT 11a More Holes and Revelations

Nov 11 Pt II

Arrived in Preston LANCS. First impressions didn't change so lets run with the stereotype - there were no middling people, they were all either thickset or scrawny. Hair on the blokes was either short (caesar cut style) probably cos 'it's sensible like', or long and flowing in the traditional bogun style. There were more than a few mullets too. I don't want to describe the women's hair, suffice to say the blokes may have looked better.
Everyone smoked. Babies, children, teens, the dog - everyone. And more gratuitous use of the word fuck than either Andrew or I manage. Go The North.
Escaped the railway smoke fest that was Preston and headed to Blackburn by coach as work was being done on the railway. Reminding me how much I don't like coach travel. Urghh, but only 30 minutes and the scenery is nice up here. Blackburn was more attractive than I thought it would be. Found the venue by seeing a guy on the bus with a DT t-shirt on holding a map, ahhh Zen navigation, sometimes it comes through well. Wandered around a bit trying to find a B and B or a hotel, but nada in the town centre (how screwed up is that!). So got a taxi to take me to some. Sorted.

Wandered back into town to grab some dinner and go to the gig. SymphonyX were opening - who if you are a prog-metal fan are well worth checking out. I've got three of the albums and all get spun reasonably frequently. The singer has one of the best voices in metal (next to LaBrie), and it was a very good hour long set. It's been quite a good few days for support bands really !
DT came on around 9 with their version of Thus Spake Zarathustra before launching into Constant Motion. All I can say is wow. This is one band who know how to play a crowd. Portnoy's kit has, if anything, increased from the XX tour and he's a showman. I get the feeling that Gavin Harrison (PT) might outplay him, but MP is by far the better viewing. LaBrie isn't on stage that much, which is probably one reason why DT can do such long tours - again (like the SymphonyX guy) you can tell he's been trained properly. Excellent posture when he's singing and that voice... I was standing on the John Petrucci side of the stage, and he was excellent. John Myung and Jordan Rudess were great, and it's always funny to seeJR wander out to the front of the stage with his portable keyboard for a solo.
All in all, last gig of the tour, relaxed atmosphere, and a great show. The band are highly professional - and it's nice to see a back projection and lighting show. I don't seem to go to enough big bands for that! There's also a fair degree of humour in the shower with the SymphonyX guys kcking MP off the drums and him doing a 'i'm not worthy salute' to them. MP throwing drum sticks to JP who flicks it back to MP backwards. Thoroughly enjoyable concert.

The audience, heh heh, 90-95% male. A lot wearing denim jackets. I realise this area is kinda the birthplace of Brit Heavy Metal, but still, it's fun to laugh at the cliches!
Merchandise stand had been stripped during the tour so no t-shirts (in my size, a 'S' didn't seem a good investment). And at 22 UKP they did seem a bit steep.

Headed back to the B and B and had a nice long sleep - missing brekkie, but that didn't bother me too much.

Tomorrow it's off to Glasglow to see Neil and some scotch.

Of Holes In Blackburn

11 Nov

Waking up at the dreadfully uncivilised hour of 8am on a Sunday for some breakfast before heading to the train station was made bearable by the confused look on the chef's, no let's be honest, cooks face. Having been scarred by the coffee on Saturday, to the point where P pointed at a Starbucks and said "hey, they'll have better coffee than we had", and I was forced to admit that he was right, I went with OJ only.
His cackle seemed a bit hurtful.

So after brekkie we headed to the station as I was catching an early train in order to get to Blackburn in time for Dream Theatre. If I get time I'll put some maps up for that. A mocha later and we said our adieu's. Once again I'm struck with how much I like first-class. Truely money well spent on that flexi-pass. It's comfortable, quiet, has legroom, food, water and power sockets.

Blackburn is the place immortalised by the FabFour as "4000 holes in Blackburn Lancashire", suggesting some form of rodent control maybe in order. since I have many hours to fill in here's some musings on various things that have changed or not changed since I was last here.

A topic close to my heart. English Ale has always put me in a profoundly good place, the slight bitterness, the varying degrees of solidity, the surprisingly low alcohol content (3.5-4.5%) and the complexity and uniqueness of each form. On this trip I've found the rumoured demise of the local ale pub in favour of the ghastly 'gastro-pub' to be much in evidence. Therefore the odds of finding a Carling, Guinness, Fosters (!), Stella and Heineken are much better than a good regional ale on tap. That's sad as it's one of the traditional food stuffs the British do well. The stuff is out there if you know where to look, we found a great local ale pub in Cardiff, but it's getting harder to find. I haven't heard much from the CAMRA group recently, and they do have an image problem (those of you in NZ - Campaign for Real Ale- look like smelly greenies, bushy beards and say 'arrr' a lot, Worzel Gummidge like). I'd suggest one of the current batch of Celeb Chefs could do a bit for it, but Gordon is everywhere (even promoting Gordin's Gin), Jamie is a twat, Ainslie needs a bullet, which leaves us with Nigella. Perhaps Nigella frolicking in a barrel of real ale sold under an amusing moniker "Nigella's Tasty Ale" is what the industry needs?

Good news on this front. The level of quality food seems better than any other time I've been here. You can buy food that looks like food (ie not prepackaged) at most/all supermarkets, and there has been a massive resurgence in farmers markets (like the Borough Market). These are also ideal places for buying ale and cheese so tend to attract me. We wandered past one this morning in Cardiff, that had we known and had more time... The levels of takeaway food are also much improved. Sure there's still the crap overfried or boiled to buggery out there, but the recent influx of Europeans to London is reflected in the variety and quality of food available. The recent awakening to food has also seen an increase in Organic certification and Organic outlet stores. Even cafe's are now advertising themselves as 'organic'. All of which makes it more bearable should I get a job over here.

Oh god no. Yeah things still suck here. We are spoilt rotten in Wellington, but even so a city this close to traditional coffee power houses such as France and Italy should be able to get a good cup somewhere. I am not jesting when I say my stovetop espresso using Monmouth Coffee Company beans seriously kicks ass over anything I've had in London. Outside Monmouth CC that is. I just don't get the ambivalence of Londoners to good coffee, they all seem to be drinking the stuff. But it's crap. Really crap. Even MCC offer a filter option for those who don't want espresso. WTF?!?! Aside from crusty ol buggers who remember the 'good old days' of Kirk's Coffee House and complain cos the new cafe's 'don't serve just a normal nice cup of coffee' who wants filter in a cafe? Freaks.
Bitter? well yes, but not in a good late extracted way.

If anything else comes to mind I'll mention it later. These TT are getting longer and longer, you poor buggers reading them!

love, B

Of Cheese and Sheep Impressions

Woke up and had brekkie, meandered into town and looked around Cardiff. A note about brekkie, we were asked did we hear the fight, I had although Patrick seemed to have slept through it. Apparently two guys were at it and ended up bottling some chick, who rather than going to the hospital wanted to go after another chick. We considered moving.

Weirdly I found the cheese stall and purchased some Welsh strong Chedder and a Welsh mustard and ale cheese. Both were great. The Chedder was stunning.

Headed to the Welsh Museum which had a wonderful display on the evolution of Wales, beginning from the establishment of the planet. It went through how various rocks were formed and when, and how this affected what eventually became Wales. Included were examples of animals present in this area of the world, and the evolution that occurred within them too. All very interesting from my perspective.

But the unexpected highlight was a display focussing on a couple of major benefactors of the Welsh museum, the Davis sisters. Their family made money from setting up the coalmines etc, and then the kids (including the sisters) continued to run things. They also had a strong philothanopic streak. And also they began to collect art, particularly the impressionists. I like the impressionists a lot. So i spent many hours looking at Monet, Manet, Rodin, Renoir, Millet, Daumier, Carriere in addition to Constable etc.

After an afternoon tea and a pint we ambled home and are having a quiet evening. Watched a fascinating a doco on Buster Keaton and am reading the paper at the moment. Quiet is good. Although there is a disco in the pub downstairs.

12 November 2007

TT 09 Nov Of leeks and sailing wax

After another slow start to a day, this one brought on by our late end to the Oxford trip, I caught up on email downloads and writing TT08. I shaved to avoid looking like a mountain men and attracting too much female attention in Wales (hey it's a national sport Welsh-baiting, better be careful writing this tho), and braved 11am traffic to try and make the 1155 to Cardiff. Failed miserably at that thanks to mucho traffico, and am currently passing through Newport at 245pm almost in Cardiff, where I'll be waiting for Patrick who also was the victim of traffic and is on a train behind me.

On the subject of trains, being the organised kinda soul that I am I bought the BritRail pass while I was in NZ. And cos it's off season (just!) I splashed out for a first class ticket. Glad I did, comfy chairs, legroom, power sockets, a nice pastel purple colour scheme, nibbles, coffee, juice, water - it's all good. I have a fair few train journeys over the next few days, so this bodes well. Wifi would also have been great, but I guess you can't have everything.

Read the Guardian today, having done The Times and The Independent over the last couple of days. Still buzzing over the PT gig, but must focus on the Chris Rees one tonight. Hmmm weather is crapping out at the moment, Mr P and I should find some accommodation sooner rather than later.

I'll get back to this later. Although not sure when I'll get some internet access to upload it.

Met Patrick at Cardiff and, with much thanks to his iPhone (note: if you yourself are not a geek, it's a good idea to carry one around with you - times such as this showed their worth) we found some accommodation in a B and B above a pub. Spooky. So we dumped our gear off and headed off to find the gig. More use of the wonderful Google maps on the iPhone, and we found the Norwegian Church in Cardiff Bay. A meander off and the food and beer situation was rectified. Huzzah for beer and food. Actually the food wasn't that good, but the beer was tolerable - a lager.
So the gig, well in terms of value for money it couldn't be beaten 6 pounds for 4 bands and a free CD. This concert was part of the Swn festival. From my recently acquired knowledge of the Welsh language, that means noise or sound. Actually I'm copying from the booklet. First up, over a pint of local ale, was Al Lewis. Described as a mix between Damien Rice and David Gray was actually pretty close. I enjoyed him, interesting lyrics, some in Welsh which forced me to listen to his music which was also very good. His was the free CD single, and I'll post a review of that later.
Christopher Rees and his band were up next. He played stuff from his new album (which I bought) very enjoyable stuff, his lyrics appear to have gotten darker. And his music has moved to an alt-country style, or at least its more predominant. Very very good stuff, and his take on the murder ballad genre was fantastic. I'm really looking forward to spinning his CD. when I have a iPod...again.

9 Bach were up next. Playing traditional Welsh folk songs. From the singers description of these songs (since they were in Welsh), it appears the Welsh are fans of wrist-slitting, very depressed songs. It was ok, but I'm not the biggest fan of some chick singers.

Julia Harris was the final act. A dreadlocked blonde with a guitar, stunning smile. Fun upbeat songs, quite poppy, but good. She's apparently rocking along on the Welsh radio stations - and from what I heard she could be the next kinda thing to be picked up.

After a somewhat convoluted walk (my fault), we got back and slept.

me x

9 November 2007

TT 08 Nov Of Oxford and the Porcupine

A leisurely start to the day saw Andrew and I breaking our fast while my clothes tumbled their way to cleanliness. Further tumbling, this time to dryness, found us walking around the town before clothes and lads were reunited and returned to the flat. And then we were off on our big Oxford adventure, leaving from Paddington we shared tall tales, middling anecdotes, and small favours (err oops, wot goes on tour stays on tour). Deciding that it would be a good idea to find the venue first (see, clever chaps!) we even managed to find a map which had the street we wanted on it. For those of you playing at home the walk took 25mins.

This level of exertion led us to seek refuge in a pub, one that served Wychwood beer - damm I'm good. Plans were assessed, talk made of more beer, but in the end we thought a viewing of the old pretty Oxford would be good (the venue was in the newer, less salubrious bit). So we ambled off, arms linked and voices raised in song "And did these feet, in ancient times..." (more prog refs there kids). Sadly it appeared god is a pop fan, for the heavens began dribbling, causing consternation and a call from the big man "quick, to the pub". just after we enacted Andrew's directive the heavens opened and unleashed a torrent the likes of which the world has rarely seen, thankfully we were at a bar and ordering a frueli (belgian strawberry beer, nice but missing some of the characteristic sour notes a good fruit beer should have).

We read papers and drank our beer. How very Oxford thought we. The deluge stopped and after letting the ark go first, we went on a rambling tour of old Oxford, which is indeed 'right nice'. Lots of lovely buildings and attractive wildlife. Many pictures were taken (of the buildings) and the light after the rain was quite superb. As evening fell our minds turned to other things so while searching out a pub, we came across a scotch shop. I know, of all the things eh?! So in our Don-like image we meandered in to thrill the somewhat bored chap in there. They had some barrels of scotch which you could buy small portions of and we tried the Ben Nevis 10yo and the Macallan 18yo. Neither grabbed us, although andrew liked the Nevis (I think it was the same as what I'd had at the tasting the other week). The sales-chappie managed to sadden me by not having any Brora or Edradour, but did give us some tasting of an Aushkoshtan (no it's not spelled right and Im too lazy to google...Neil?) as he'd asked if we liked it and I said I'd been unimpressed thus far. A three barrelled 18yo dram was poured, and lo, the people were mightily impressed (matured in sherry, bourbon and something else, memory hazy). We liked this shop, said we'd return tomorrow (to which we all smiled) and meandered off. Three nips under our belt was certainly keeping our bellyfires warm, rather than risk it being put out we found another pub. As luck would have it, "The White Horse" - the one that Insp Morse drank lots of pints at. Again so impressed was I that texts were sent. I hope they were understandable!

More meandering, more photos and a realistation that gnawing pain in our bellies was not misplaced rats, rather twas hunger. So grub and wine was had by all. And finally to the venue. Not the best, but meh. the doors had opened at 7 and we got there about 740ish, in time to catch the last three songs of Anathema. That pissed us off a bit, but they were doing acoustic so missing their usual power. Oh well, another time. I grabbed a t-shirt and andrew grabbed beer. We bullied our way to near the front and awaited Porcupine Tree.

What a stunning set. Steve Wilson said as it was the 2nd round of touring for Fear OABP that they'd be mixing things up and we got three tracks from Signify (ooohhhh), Even Less, a fair chunk of FoaBP, couple from the new EP Nil recurring, bits of Deadwing (sadly not Arriving Somewhere...), couple from IA, Hatesong. So yeah wot a fantastic setlist for my first gig from PT, I've spending far too much money on this band since 1995 or 6 when Adrian said he'd heard something from TSMS and said I needed to get the album. Damm him. Very happy camper here.

We meandered back to the railway station, caught the earlier train (woohoo) then bussed back to home, tired (well it was 2am), boozed (beer, wine, spirits) and spiritually uplifted (awesome gig).

b xxx off to Cardiff today

7 November 2007

TT 7 Nov

From the TT desk: after a quiet start to the morning since the girls had run off to work (nah nah nah) I caved in and got some drugs for the cold. They seem to be working, nice to able to buy things without the spectre of being a P-head - and from the supermarket as well. Headed back to the Science Museum and had a great day looking at medicine stuff in the Wellcome museum, space race, planes and development of flight. All really interesting, if spoiled a bit by stupid school kids. Got to be a legitimate defence to shoot them. Weakened and went to the imax 'sea monsters 3d' film today. I say weakened, but given the topic (ancient aquatic dinosaurs), the music (Peter Gabriel) it wasn't that surprising I went. This one wasn't half as annoying as yesterdays, although they did insist on having a 'story' to hang the CGI stuff on. This featured a lot of palaeontologists reconstructing on the fly the story and magically revealing perfect fossils by using their brush. Now aside from the small issues of finding the skeleton, getting the skeleton out etc, I think the biggest issue was that all of the palaeo's were young. And the group they focused on was laughable, a good looking black guy and two hot babes (blonde and a brunette). Now I've spent some time with palaeo people, and I struggle to think of any that could be described as 'hot'. At least at the PhD level !

So I'm home now to have a reasonably quiet evening.

In the news review section that occasionally pops up in TT. Aside from the rapidly escalating crisis in Pakistan the major issue dominating the paper is the imminent opening of the St Pancras station refit - which takes over the Eurostar next week. An operation is taking place in New Delhi to separate a child from her parasitic twin who had led to her having 4 arms and 4 legs, but no bonus head sadly. Nylon tea bags are now being sold on the mainstreet in direct competition to the poor quality paper ones the Brits are used to.
But the pinnacle of news asides from today are the following top 'stupid' laws in England:
* People are banned from dying in Parliament. This is because its a Royal Palace, and technically anyone who dies there is entitled to a state funeral.
* It is an act of treason to to place a postage stamp bearing the monarch's head upside down.
* An old London by-law means a pregnant woman can relieve herself anywhere, including a policeman's helmet.

Tomorrow consists of me and Andrew heading to Oxford for the Porcupine Tree and Anathema gig. Woohoo. Beer! Gig!


TT 06 Nov

Quiet start to the day, managed to bugger my ankle again yesterday - aggravation of the bloody soccer injury. Never had that kind of injury from hockey. No wonder I don't like that poncy big ball kicking thing.
So hobbled off to the supermarket grabbed some rolls, branston pickle, paper and juice to go with my cheese and coffee. Quite a good start to the day all things considered.
Caught up on emails and applied for jobs. All of which took me til about 1230 when I headed to the Grant museum of biology at UCL. Interesting place and had a chat to the curator since I was the only person there. Told him what I worked on and then had a good look at the anapsids, diapsids and the lampreys and lungfish up close. They also had a fossil of a very primitive turtle, or rather a lineage that (probably) led to turtles. I was allowed to take photos as along as I didn't put them up on the web...hmmmm....

Went to a pub for a beer while I worked out what I was up to next. It turned out to be the Science Museum. Looked at the steam engine development and watched the Ocean iMax movie (the Johnny Depp narrated one). The thing that pisses me off about NatGeo movies is the anthropomorphism, and the stupid bloody lines they use. How the fuck are you supposed to learn things when the doco is making cutesy comments. Twats. But I think I might head back there and look at more stuff. And there is a new iMax movie about deep sea monsters...

Caught up with Fran and Kate in the evening. It was cold. But beer put to mind to that. I've got a couple of photos of them which I might put up tomorrow. There was the Liverpool vs some foreign team game on whcih l/pool kicked them 9-0. Everyone else seemed to care far more than we did.

Oh well, off for a shower and to face the day now
love and lollipops, B.

6 November 2007

Oh No!!!

My iPod has developed a case of 'click-of-death'. That's generally fatal.


Why the F*(K it couldn't have gotten this a couple of weeks before I left, or after I came back I don't know.

It is getting a bit elderly now so I'm not going to yell at it and there wasn't anything irreplaceable on it.


Tuatara Times 05 Nov

The flight wasn't particularly exciting. Read my book, "Imperium" by Robert Harris, which was really good - a well researched fictional story of Cicero and his rise to power. Nice page turner too. Also read the new Vanity Fair as it had Hitchens, Stoppard and more criticism on Haliburton, Bush, Cheney and the war. Lots of stuff to watch on the in flight, but felt more like reading and listening to music - except for the Simpsons movie and some Top Gear episodes (S8).

Was only in Hong Kong for an hour and a half, had some issues in transit thanks to NZ duty free not sealing the bottle of voddie I got for Andrew. But I'll get in touch with Regency DF and see if they can sort that out. I was proud of myself, managed to keep calm and not yell or kill anyone. Go me! Got to London, found Andrew, headed back to his place to meet Alex (she's lovely) and shower. Oh god that was good.
Then to the pub. My cunning plan of dozing on the plane then drinking at the pub until 9ish seems to stop jet lag as i'm fine today.

Today I've been to the Monmouth Coffee Company and Neals Dairy Yard at the Borough Markets. Had a very good espresso there and bought some beans so thats the next couple of days sorted. Picked up some cheese too, some of which was in my sammie for lunch.

Wandered around a bit and realised I hadn't actually looked at a map all day...had a meander on the Thames track which I haven't been on before, went to Tate Modern and as luck would have it they had an exhibition of surrealism, abstract (ism?), smattering of cubism and modernism so lots of Picasso, Miro (who I think rocks), deKoening, Georges, quite a few Lichensteins, Warhol and many others. I like surrealism, it's one of my favourite forms of art. The, without wanting to sound wanky, juxtaposition between the preciseness of the art and the vaguely disconcerting feeling that something is wrong with the picture. A painted 'cinema of unease' which, if we believe Sam Neill, maybe why as a NZer I like it. That took me til about 3ish when I went and found some bread rolls and salad to go with my cheese, dropped in to say to Andrew, and am now sitting outside the Brit Museum. I went to the drawing exhibition - last time there were heaps of Caravaggio, this time an interesting selection of old masters drawings, and a collection of early 'comics' which was good. In fact great!

I saw that UCL has a couple of museums which I haven't been to so may see them tomorrow. Meeting Patrick (patron of the MMG) tonight for a beverage or two, and Cousy n Kate tomorrow night. Patrick was good, and still very very hairy!

Not sure when this will get put up on the blog...

Shalom, B.

3 November 2007

On the way to a farflung ex-empire

I'm sitting at Auckland airport without much to amuse me for an hour or two, hence the hop on the web and blog. Oh god, I'm so sad. The delights of the food court failed to tempt me, and as the limit for booze into the UK is 1 ltr of 42%+, I've grabbed Andrew's order and left it at that. Might consider some cigars, but not really in the shopping mood. I've acquired a throat infection which is pissing me off, but it is making me tired which is a good thing for flying :)

Firstly a movie review, those of you who like NZ movies or believe in supporting out indiginous movie industry should pay attention. We wandered along to Perfect Creature, the new movie by the director of Irrefutable Truth About Demons. Now that movie was enjoyable, and the feeling most of us got after watching was, it would be great to see him given money and a decent script. PC has had far more money thrown at it, and looks great. Sadly the script suffered- cool concept (vampires 'the brotherhood' and humans live in harmony) but done very very poorly. Actually the concept lent itself to some interesting exploration, was this really a symbiotic relationship? There were scenes in the movie suggestion subjugation - was this deliberate?
Anyhoo, story line, such as it was, concerned a vampire that went bad and started killing humans. It was 'infected' with some new virus thing. The head of the brotherhood, who happened to also be the bad vamps bruvva, had to go hunt him. The main hunter, played by Dougray Scott, never managed any style - tried hard to look tense, worried and generally emo, but failed.
The movie dragged. Badly. Even worse, it's only 90mins long. S had made some comment before it started about C and Z grades, and I pointed out I could certainly find them for her. It appeared we were at one already.

Recommendation: don't go. don't get the dvd. watch 'demons instead.

The trip: I'm thinking of resuscitating Tuatara Times, which gained a far larger readership last time I was overseas that I ever suspected. We'll see how I can fit that into the blog format.

To all of those I didn't quite get around to seeing before I buggered off, sorry about that (DH+LP in particular - promise i'll pop down, it's only ChCh afterall!).

Akld duty free is crap btw. Which I guess everyone knows, but still. The booze salesman looked confused when he offered to help and I said I was after 'single malts'. Apparently that's a brand. FFS!!!! nevermind, the heathrow scotch shop and neil's Scotch Tours should fix me up right proper.

I've just remembered UK customs like to have an address that you'll be living at, might have to write that down since I think I left Andrew's in my luggage. But, being the organised (hoohoohoo) lad I am, it's also sitting in my email. And so far I can't think of anything I've forgotten. Not bad for an hour of packing !

I should take this opportunity to write a CD review or something. Or Diapsid III (yes it's coming). Or maybe, heaven forbid, finish formatting another paper.

For those of you who want to get in touch, the gmail account is the best bet.
Oh and the title refers to Hong Kong, not sure how much of a stopover I get there actually as there's nothing useufl on my boarding pass...
Love, B

30 October 2007

More Scotch

In my continuing attempts to destroy my liver - soon to be ably assisted by AndrewS and Psychochicken - I went to the Regional Wines Scotch Tasting. Another fun night with B and M, as usual my tasting notes are vague, although somewhat more descriptive than normal. This tasting was run by the fabulous Whisky Galore in Christchurch (which our fav chicken has been to as well) and included the following (all no chill/colour):
Bunnahabhain heavily peated 9yo signatory refillbutt 5275 46%
Ben Riach 16yo 43%
Ben Nevis 10yo 46%
Edradour 1993 cask 251 59.8%
Highland Park 22yo 56.6% duncan taylor cask 1731 orkney matured bottle
laphroaig 17yo OMC 50% refillhogshead 1710
Port Ellen Provence win83 refull butt 3229 23yo
+ a mystery one which i didn't write down :)

My pick? strangely not the most expensive one (see other Scotch blog), rather the Edradour which came in at a 9.5 for me. And I was right pissed off when I ordered it, only to discover they had no bottles left :( Normally from that list I'd have picked the HPark but really didn't like that one, describing it as too sweet and caramel on the palate, and not liking the nose much either (chlorine according to me!).
The Edradour had a huge nose with big notes of caramel, and the palate was 'velvet caramel', nice long finish too.

In what appears to be a continuing theme, I've just noticed Neil is also a fan of Edradour. The trip to Scotland may turn out to be expensive. Oh and my #2 was the Laphroaig (8.5-9), I was (apparently) very impressed with the 'texture' and the 'oily noise).

Love, me


Suz and I wandered along to Stardust last night - the movie adaptation of the Neil Gaiman book. I'm sure there are masses of reviews out so mine's a vibe based review. I liked it. A lot. It stuck pretty much to the story (as I remember it anyway) and it's a fun movie. The cameo's are excellent - and thankfully Gervais isn't in it too much - de Niro is by far and away the highlight of the movie. His timing is wonderful, and worth the price of admission alone.

I'd have liked to have seen more asides from the rapidly increasing ghost contingent, as they were pretty special. I enjoyed the pacing of the movie which certainly isn't hurried, but meanders along nicely. The one complaint is that the music wasn't the best, seemed a bit too repetitive.

I can see this becoming a bit of a cult classic, kinda like Princess Bride. Definitely recommended.


28 October 2007

KPW Helloween Hell II

Martin and I wandered along after some QI and Boss Nigger to the KPW 'Helloween Hell II' as we'd enjoyed the previous KPW event. Obviously there for the legend that is Dr Diablo, we managed to sit through the matches before the herculean man muscle of Diablo cantered to the stage. We were awestruck!!
Is that man on the juice? Surely not!
A glorious victory ensued, the second in his amazing career. Surely he's in line for a title shot? We must start a fan club - Lil' Diablos?
Some action shots of the big man in action, locking in the leglock and inflicting the pain - he's got a PhD in it ya know.

Big calls by the big Blair too - possibly our favourite "I'm in Newtown and a fights broken out!"



Our intrepid band of Bgrade fans tracked down Boss Nigger and watched it yesterday. For those of you who watched the preview from YouTube (see earlier post) the movie doesn't disappoint. Great performance by Fred Williamson - the gags and oneliners are great. Bill Smith takes the role as the bad guy. It's worth checking out his IMDB entry he's a bright wee boy, and has very diverse talents. Aside from acting he's: Guiness record-holder for reverse-curling his own body weight; Performed over 5,100 continuous sit-ups over a five hour period etc. And he's been in some classics.

So the movie, um blaxpoitation western. Funky soundtrack with black sheriff cleaning up white mans town.

Worth watching. We headed to the KPW event afterwards and I'll blog about that soon, should be with some pictures too.

This blog has been brought to you by the metal show with Anathema playing "Phantom of the Opera" and now Opeth riffing out on 'Deliverance'.

Love, B

26 October 2007

Munro, Smith, Berlin and Dean - Review

Thanks to the lovely people at CT, I had tickets to the Chamber Music New Zealand gig last night. For those of you local, the Smith is ex-concertmaster of the NZSO, Wilma Smith. The programme was interesting. Kicked off with Mozart Piano Quartet in Gmin K478. Regular readers will know my dislike for Mozart. This one was no different, I keep thinking Mozart's like a pretty but vacuous chick, good to look at but ultimately you have to talk to her, and it's all downhill from there. Usual Mozart motifs, repetition, kinda dancey vibe, and when he feels the variation has gone on enough - he hammers the main theme. I thought it was well played. But certainly not what I was there for.

I got the feeling that this was a young quartet, not so much hesitancy as enjoying the novelty of playing together. And this was apparent in the second piece, the Copland (Piano Quartet 1950). I really enjoyed this piece. Interesting, quirky and challenging. All the things I like in classical music, and all the things missing from the Mozart (yeah I know I should stop harping on about it, but meh!). I should buy more Copland as I like everything I have of his. And ELP covered him. There ya go prog-readers, a hook-in for you lot and evidence I do listen to pre-1980s prog.

The second half was the Schumann Piano Quartet in Eb Opus 47. Now I'm not the biggest Schumann fan either (jeez i'm a picky bastard), but this was great. Again with the interesting rhythms, but more lyricism than the Copland. As you'd expect from Schumann.

Performance was excellent, I got the feeling there was a bit of unsure playing in the Schumann, but the excellence of the Copland more than made up for it. Excellent balance as well. Well recommended.


Ancient Reptiles

Ok, so I'm a bit bored at work at the moment and may put up a few blogs today.

The first is a subject close to my heart, reptiles. In particular archaeic reptiles. There has been some controversy about when reptiles started wandering around, previous to the current work the oldest fossil was dated to 315 MYA. Molecular work suggests that around that time the Testudines (turtles) split from the reptilian lineage. And that's separate from the anapsid:diapsid split issue. Sphenodontidae were also about to start their big diversification (heh heh- not so much), so the 315 MYA date has been largely ignored in evolutionary discussions. Even the main morphology players don't use it much (Lee, Benton et al). So the recent finding of rocks 1 - 3 MY older pushes the date back. It may not seem like much, but it supports earlier dates and the authors acknowledge that this era is poorly studied.
More support for the molecular side.

Nature summary here.

Article here.

Love, Sergeant Sphen

23 October 2007

Ngauranga & Effluent

Please note the ampersand between those two. I was sitting on the train and noticed the weird contraption next to the Ngauranga station, labelling on it says it's a place for dumping effluent from stock trucks and mobile homes. I never knew these things existed, and there's one I ride past. Exciting!!
Other interesting facts about Ngauranga. There's a boat carcass up there somewhere, probably around the lights. I read something in the DomPost some time ago about it - it was on the beach front, but that got lifted during the big quake. Some guy in Wgtn had been trying to find it for sometime. I think that kinda thing is cool, I often think I'd have liked to have been a historian, or at least done more local history. I really enjoy Peter Kitchin's columns each week in the Sat paper.

All those thoughts were inspired by the absolutely wonderful album, Up by Peter Gabriel. If push came to shove I think that album would make it on my top10. Ever. And I don't like early Genesis. It constantly disturbs me how many ppl presume I like early Genesis and Yes, and I gave up trying to explain the concept of 'neo-prog' to them. Sticking to 'I like Radiohead' seems to work better.

Love, B.

22 October 2007

Up the Irons!

Far be it for me to suggest that your average Iron Maiden/metal fan is a smelly, unkempt individual, but one could certainly draw that conclusion from items in the IM merchandise collection, namely:

For those of you playing at home, yes that's right, IM branded incense. that beat the IM branded candle holder, wrapping paper and coasters as my favourite item. More information on this stunning example of niche marketing here!

Can you smell what the Eddie's cooking?

me x

19 October 2007

Oct 19

1943. Streptomycin was discovered.

Which is surprising given how recent that was, and how important it's discovery has been - particularly for tuberculosis. And another example of supervisors f'ing over their grad students. For a brief summary read it here.

Watching the Argies deal to the Frogs at the moment :)


I should find this movie

The preview suggests it has everything I need in a movie

Me x

16 October 2007

Cane Toads!

Regular readers of the blog will know of my interest in Cane Toads, and their rampage across Aussie. Toad #2 here and Toad #1 here.

So in todays update - this time from Nature - Rick Shine (quiet Chris...) reported that those toads at the leading edge of the invasion had longer legs. That makes sense. But in research just published in PNAS these toads also have increased spinal abnormalities, with 10% having spinal arthritis. This, Shine says, may make them more vulnerable to novel methods of control - including parasites due to a compromised immune system.

Without too much thinking about this, it strikes me that if arthritis is only affecting 10% of the population, then killing them off maybe a bad move. All you'd be doing would be strengthening the population genetics. Interesting spin on Eugenics tho'.
If the stress induced by the rampage into new environments weakens the immune system (Shine's hypothesis) then infecting them with parasites isn't really dealing to the problem. All it is doing is slowing the spread - but not dealing with the areas already invaded. I still think it makes more sense to focus on a form of reproductive control. Amphibians are quite susceptible to steroid affects, but with the huge herpetofauna in Aussie thats a dangerous road to go down.

Crickey, almost a cogent post.

In upcoming blogs Anapsid/Diapsid III (honest!!) and some music reviews.


Calendar update

Some initial reviews of SpanningSync. It seems good, except I can't find a way to sync my URL field from iCal to GoogleCalendar. I've emailed the maker of the program, and yesterday entered the URL in Notes rather than the URL field of iCal. So we will see what happens.

What I may end up doing is using the iPod. Currently I sync my iCal to my iPod which does provide URL information. And I can open that calendar on any machine (well any Mac) using iCal. So that's all good.

S commented that my last post I appeared to be 'very tired' - a polite way of asking if I was pissed due to the spelling 'issues'. I've made a special attempt here.

Me x

15 October 2007

iCal and Google Calendar

Hi all, I'd like some help from those of you who understand what I'm talking about.
I use iCal for my main calendar program, but it's not always convenient to bring my laptop into work each day. So I need a way to have access to the calendar. It strikes me that using Google Calendar would be the easiest way given I use GMail.

So any recommendations for this?

Solutions I've found:
Subscribing to a GCal - Problem with this is that it doesn't allow synching both ways - which I need.
GCALDaemon - it looks scary!! I did start trying to us it, but it's tricky and I gave up, cos I'm shockingly lazy. No really. I am!
SpanningSync - Ok so it costs $25US a year (or $65 for a perpetal licence), but it's the one I'm testing at hte moment. And it works very nicely.
GSync - also does much the same.

So anyone used any of these? Other ideas? Remember I need to synch both ways.

I also heard rumours that 10.5 has this built in, anyone heard anything?

b x

14 October 2007

The Devil Dared me to & Infamous

M and I meandered along to The Devil Dared me to, a production by the Back of the Y boys (Deja Voodoo) with Ant (of Movie Marathon fame!) production company - or funding, or something.
Throughly enjoyable offensive flick. Big thumbs up. Randy Campbell, from a long lineage of stuntmen, wants to jump Cook Strait, a long torturous journey follows - a coming of age flick if you will. Much profanity, dodgy behaviour and a thoroughly honest view of the South Island. So many great quotes, so much learning for M on child raising (Randy's mate Spanner's father showed inspired parenting skills) - and lots of laugh out loud stuff. Loved it.
Lots of death, including Dick's girlfriend, tombstone reading "She was a great root."

In a slightly different vibe, Infamous, the other Truman Capote movie. Critics have been raving about Toby Jones' performance as Capote. And yes it's pretty damm impressive. The story covers the same time period as Capote, but seemed to me to focus more on person of Capote. It's certainly not as flashy as Capote, but this one seems more personal and delicate. Is it better? Well I guess that depends on what you want from your movie. I'd say its certainly got stronger more personal performances by the actors. Daniel Craig is wonderful as the prisoner who Capote falls for - an aspect that I think was lost in Capote. Seymour Hoffman won for his performance, and there should be no reason why Jones shouldn't win either. But given how this movie has slipped under the radar, I doubt he'll be even nominated. Go see it. Even if you saw the other movie.

B x

9 October 2007

Are you calling me fat?!?!?!

The world's largest organism, contrary to popular belief, is not Pavarotti's remains. Rather it's a fungus in Oregon at 10 square kilometers.

As Gaz mentioned: that's a bloody big omelette.


7 October 2007

Um yeah

Rugby? Oh that's some kinda game thing innit?
nah, can't say I follow it...

And in retail therapy news:
Iron and Wine - The Shepherd's Dog
Scott Walker - The Drift
Phoenix Foundation - Happy ending


6 October 2007

TVNZ, doco and stupidity

I'm going to avoid mentioning the word 'Charter' here. That would be too easy.

TVNZ recently played the Stephen Fry documentary 'The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive', an absolutely wonderful and interesting doco by Fry exploring his MD (bipolar) side. At times brutally honest, Fry described how he'd almost committed suicide, been thrown in jail and the most recent media event, running away from the stage show. In between his personal exploration of the illness, he talked to others suffering from MD - from extreme cases who were unable to function at all, to more mild 'famous' cases (Richard Dreyfuss and Carrie Fisher). One thing I found interesting was the Dr working in the ward saying they had a 90-95% success rate in helping people. As he said, what other discipline can claim that?

I haven't been this hooked by a doco for sometime, it was moving, interesting, informative and with Fry's characteristic dry humour.
All of which raises the question: why was it on at 1125pm on a Sunday night?

Jane Bowron in her column also bemoaned the timing saying that had it concerned Britney or that ilk, it would have made primetime TV.

Instead we had one of the most interesting, literate and honest presenters currently working, critically exploring a devastating illness at a time when no-one will be watching.
Great move TVNZ.

On the plus side, if anyone wants to borrow it I have it on tape (yeah ol skool) so you can skip the ads that paid for it to be on at such a stupid time.

B x
(currently watching For a Few Dollars More)

2 October 2007

Cool - Stevie Wonder

The man just pimps it.

I'm listening to Talking Book at the moment, having spun Inner Visions the other day after a mate lent them to me. I'd commented I'd never listened to much.

Our office is bopping along to Superstition. Well all of us aside from the old fck who none of us like.


30 September 2007

Cafe Review: Janus Bakkerij

I have said in the past that I don't like this place, there's no atmosphere and the food is mediocre. Sadly there's little competition without using a car and killing the planet, so we headed down there (again) on Sunday.
We left after 50+ minutes and no food arriving. That pissed me off enough that I've written a letter. And I never get that excited. Ever. I say I will, but never do.
I’m grumpy. I’ve been to your cafĂ© three times in the last month or two and haven’t had a good experience yet. Things reached a nadir on Sunday when we wandered along for brunch.
Sure your staff were polite at the counter and told us to go sit down and they’d come take our order. Sadly, that’s the good point.
From there we waited 10 minutes, eventually giving up and heading back to the counter to suggest that they ‘may want to take our order’. Magically someone appeared. Our order was taken, albeit with repeating back the wrong stuff to us – and neither of us have poor diction or enunciation. After getting this sorted and establishing that we’d like our coffees with the food, we settled in to read the paper and await food. After 40 minutes (a total of 50 since we arrived) we decided to give the staff another 5 and then we’d leave. And so we left telling a smiling waitress who’d arrived to clear our place to ‘cancel our order’.

Sadly this wasn’t the first time we’ve had long delays, the other two times I’ve been I’ve also found the service very slow. But Sunday did take things to a new level.

At the very least you could have informed us there would be a 30-40 minute wait before food arrived.

I won’t be going back, and I will be passing this onto friends who ask for recommendations.

Regards, Bruce